October 1st, 2019

Emergency telecommunications plan required

HALIFAX - The NDP Caucus will introduce legislation today in response to the widespread telecommunications failures after Hurricane Dorian. Immediately after the hurricane, many communities were cut off from internet and phone service as cell phone towers lacked sufficient back-up power to maintain the system.

“Cell phone and internet services have become essential services like power and water. We need to update our emergency management protocols to reflect this shift in technology,” said Claudia Chender, NDP Business Spokesperson. “While telecommunication regulation is a federal responsibility, with extreme weather becoming more common, Nova Scotians need to have confidence that they will have access to telecommunications in an emergency.”

The NDP bill requires provincial and municipal emergency management teams to include a plan for continuous telecommunications for the public. The Emergency Management Office (EMO) could maintain communications systems at various accessible locations across the province (like warming centres or fire stations) to make sure the public had access during an emergency or disaster.

The bill also mandates that telecommunications companies provide information to EMO following storms or in other emergencies, including whether or not their services are operational, which locations are experiencing problems, and when service will be restored.

“One of the major concerns I heard after Dorian was the frustration with the telecom companies for not providing information about service disruptions,” said Chender. “People experienced service outages and received no information about when full service would be restored. Nova Scotia Power is required to provide these kind of updates to the people; it should be the same for telecoms.”